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Review: SEO 2014 & Beyond by Dr. Andy Williams
SEO 2014 & Beyond
SEO 2014 & Beyond: Search Engine Optimization Will Never Be the Same Again
By Dr. Andy Williams
ISBN: 1494401894
August 5, 2014
http://ezseonews.com

This brief recap of the most recent evolution of search engine optimization gives readers some pointed tips for increasing search engine rank, while avoiding tactics that might negatively affect your site's Google authority. Like I said, at 126 pages, it is a very brief read, but Williams does well to pack in plenty of information.

He gets straight to the point and touches on some black hat techniques that are still being touted heavily by many SEO experts. These techniques can actually hurt your site rank, so it's important to avoid them at all costs. Williams also gives advice on cleaning up your tracks if you have used these techniques in the past and want to start over with a clean slate.

The main takeaway from SEO 2014 & Beyond is that there really is no search engine optimization any longer. With Google's algorithms getting consistently smarter at weeding out spam, the only true way to get your site ranked highly is to provide honest, quality content and avoid keyword stuffing. Write like you truly are an authority and your sole intention is to inform the reader, not garner backlinks and Google favor.

I took away several tactics to implement and found this to be a useful read. I would recommend this to anyone concerned with site rank and Google placement. I will likely read some of Williams' other books, as well.
Review: The New Colored Pencil by Kristy Ann Kutch
The New Colored Pencil Cover
The New Colored Pencil: Create Luminous Works with Innovative Materials and Techniques
By Kristy Ann Kutch
ISBN: 978-0-77043-693-3
© 2014, Watson-Guptill Publications (an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC)

The New Colored Pencil is a perfect tutorial for beginners or those with a vague familiarity with using colored pencils for creating art. If, like me, your knowledge of colored pencils is limited to the exposure you had in high school art class and the casual scribblings you've attempted on your own with a box of Crayolas, you'll find this book to be an excellent source of inspiration.

Kristi Ann Kutch begins with an overview of the types of pencils available (who'd have guessed there were more than one) and the specific qualities of each brand, as well as the best types of surfaces to use with each type. She explains basic art concepts like color wheels, value, saturation, contrast, and more. You will learn how to create textures and use different tools to create effects. The appendix has a helpful list of each brand, color, and the assigned manufacturer numbers for a quick reference of the range offered. Kutch fills the book with both her own beautiful colored pencil illustrations and those of other talented artists.

This book contains so many techniques and ideas, you will find enough projects to keep you going for months. I had no idea there could be such depth to something as simple as using a colored pencil, but Kutch does a fine job of illustrating this. I highly recommend The New Colored Pencil to the DIY artist who loves learning something new or just needs some inspiration to get going.


I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
Review: Jack the Boogey is My Real Name by Davon and Chase Washington

Jack the Boogey is My Real Name

By Davon and Chase Washington
Illustrated by Ana-Gabriela Stroe
ISBN: 978-0996091602
2014, Bedford House Books


What if the Boogeyman isn't the scary monster we all expect him to be? What if his bad reputation is all part of a big misunderstanding? That's exactly the premise behind Jack the Boogey is My Real Name by Davon and Chase Washington, and it's a refreshing take on the classic haunt.

Jack the Boogey introduces himself with the intention of explaining who he really he and why he's been so misunderstood. He's really a good guy, who has children's best interests at heart and earned his bad reputation keeping the real monsters of the world at bay. If your child has a fear of the dark, this is a perfect remedy to what they imagine is lurking in the shadows. It could provide some peace of mind. It is a great bedtime book.

Ana-Gabriela Stoe does an excellent job portraying Jack as a cuddly, non-threatening protector of children in the colorful illustrations. Besides the lovable, adorable illustrations, Jack the Boogey promotes the moral of taking the high road and continuing to do good things, even if no one notices. Any parent can stand behind this idea.

My little one and I thoroughly enjoyed the story (he made me read it twice as soon as I took it out of the package and I had to distract him with Monsters University to get away to write a review), but the real treat to me was stashed in the cover blurb hidden away in the back of the book. It's written by Davon Washington and his son, Chase. Davon wanted to help young Chase understand how much work and effort went into providing the nice things he had, so he let Chase make this a project in which they could collaborate and Chase could get an idea of the value of hard work. To me, that's the best part of the story!

Check out the link below for your own chance to win a copy of Jack the Boogey is My Real Name. Like the official Jack the Boogey Facebook fan page.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Jack the Boogey Is My Real Name by Davon Washington

Jack the Boogey Is My Real Name

by Davon Washington

Giveaway ends June 24, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
Review: What Happened to the Tooth Fairy? by Graham Gardner

What Happened to the Tooth Fairy?

By Graham Gardner
Illustrated by Nancy LeBlanc
978-1939930156
March 15, 2014
Belle Isle Books

When Oliver loses his front tooth, he's eagerly anticipating a visit from the tooth fairy. But when the tooth fairy doesn't show, his excitement turns to worry. Did he do something to make her angry? Was she hurt? He checks with every member of his family, but no one has a clue where the tooth fairy might be. Oliver becomes so worried that he constructs a trap to capture the tooth fairy and find out why she didn't take his beloved tooth. It's time for a tooth fairy interrogation!

Of course, one silly boy can't capture the tooth fairy, but when he awakens to find her standing on his pillow, she sticks around to answer some of his questions. She explains the numerous reasons why she might be delayed when he loses a tooth. Some are pretty obvious--too many kids lose a tooth in the same day, a kid stays up too late--but some are pretty ingenious. "Fairies are very sensitive. And if fairies are around with a child with a bad attitude, we can get the fairy flu. It can make us fairy, fairy sick!"

The tooth fairy continues her tales and fairy humor until Oliver falls back to sleep. When he awakens the next morning, she has fulfilled her fairy responsibility and replaced his tooth with four shiny quarters. He knows after their little chat they had the night before that if she's ever late again, he has no reason to worry. He's even thoughtful enough to write her a nice thank you note.

What Happened to the Tooth Fairy? features detailed watercolor illustrations to highlight each frame. There is an included secret message to decode, as well as a page with a tooth layout and blank areas to record the dates for each tooth lost. There is also a list of ages when a child is expected to lose each tooth. With the tooth records, it easily becomes a family keepsake. Plus, it's educational. I can imagine this book in dentists' offices everywhere.

Not surprisingly, the author, Graham Gardner, is an orthodontist, so he must be pretty fond of teeth. This is his second book. His first book, The Santa Beacon, was released in 2012.
Review: A Life Apart by L. Y. Marlow
A Life Apart
By L.Y. Marlow
Broadway Books, A Division of Random House
April 22, 2014
ISBN 978-0-307-71939-3

Set during the turmoil of World War II, A Life Apart introduces us to Morris Sullivan. He's a nice guy--rather bland--who marries young when his high school sweetheart, Agnes, becomes pregnant. Determined to provide a good life for his wife and daughter and pursue his own lifelong dream, he joins the navy and sets off for a rather ominous destination: Pearl Harbor. He leaves his family behind in Boston while he serves his country.

Agnes is forced to raise their daughter alone while her husband serves. It's hard enough being apart from him, but then the unthinkable happens. Pearl Harbor is bombed and Agnes has to wait to learn the fate of her husband after hearing the news. Morris is injured, but alive, thanks to a fellow sailor. Thankful to have been spared, Morris seeks out the sailor who saved him to express his gratitude, only to find out that sailor ended up being part of the carnage of Pearl Harbor. He discovers the man has a sister in college back in Boston, and decides since he cannot thank the man himself, he will find the sister and let her know her brother was a hero when he returns home on leave.

The conflict arises from the fact that the heroic sailor was a black man, and the Civil Rights Movement is still years away. It's controversial enough that Morris-a white man-shows up in a black neighborhood to seek out the sister, but once Morris meets Beatrice, he cannot deny the inexplicable pull the woman has on him. He cannot erase her from his thoughts and begins writing to her once he returns to Pearl Harbor to finish his enlistment. Despite his dedication to his family, he has fallen in love with Beatrice.

The events that follow transpire over decades, through the end of the war and integration. Morris and Beatrice begin an on and off relationship that creates turmoil for all those surrounding them. The entire time Morris is carrying on this affair with Beatrice, he maintains his marriage to Agnes, so he is essentially leading a double life with two separate families. This results in his being only partially there for his wife, children, and mistress, so everyone really suffers in this situation.

While it would seem the book is mainly about Morris, since he is the key protagonist in the entire story, it really revolves around those who love him and the lasting scars he leaves. Each of the ladies in his life experiences her own degree of heartache, whether in direct relation to their relationship with Morris or the turmoil surrounding the events of the time period and how the general public views interracial relationships. The story is about how each woman deals with her personal demons and overcomes the obstacles placed in her path. I found it hard to stand behind Morris, as each time it seemed like he was about to step up to the plate and take charge he seemed to be stopped short. However, following the conflicts of the women in his life was much more satisfying. These ladies, even as children, overcame some incredibly tough issues that developed their characters far better than Morris.

The story winds up with an amazing twist, where Agnes ends up in Beatrice's care and the two form a lasting friendship that neither can explain. A single family is formed from the broken pieces Morris leaves behind. He's still present, but like most of the book, he seems shadowed by the strong women in his life.

A Life Apart is a poignant and touching tribute to historical events that forged the United States we know today. It's a stark look at our country's dark past and the struggles we have had to overcome, and still rally against today, to a degree. While a work of fiction, it's definitely worth reading if not just for the historical value, to get a glimpse of what used to be. The fact that all of these events could take place within one person's lifetime makes it all too apparent how little removed we are from those controversial events today.
A Rainbow of Birds by Janet Halfmann

A Rainbow of Birds
By Janet Halfmann
Illustrated by Jack Foster
ISBN: 1616334622
February 15, 2014
Guardian Angel Publishing

Janet Halfmann has been a favorite author in our family for years. My older boys grew up on her books, so naturally their two-year-old baby brother became a Halfmann fan, as well. I think it's the subject matter her books typically cover that is so intriguing to young readers, in particular little boys. I think we started with Little Skink's Tail, and what little boy can resist a book about creepy crawlies? I was excited to read about a new release from Halfmann on Mymcbooks blog. I was even more excited when I won a copy in her giveaway! Thanks, Ella!

We didn't waste any time diving into the book as soon as we got home and found it had arrived in the mail. The story centers on Papa Bird, who decides to tell his chicks a story about how rainbows are made. It's a mythical tale that assigns a type of bird to each color of the rainbow, so children can learn to recognize familiar birds they might find outside. It wraps up with a little science, explaining how rainbows are actually created and introducing the Roy G. Biv spectrum. There are also experiments for little ones to create their own rainbows.

Kaylen enjoyed the book so much that he refused to give it up when I asked for it to write a quick review. He wanted to read it over and over again. The bright illustrations prompted him to reach out and touch every page as we flipped through. I have a feeling we'll be reading this at bedtime for a few days, at least, as he's pretty hooked on it. Once again, Janet Halfmann has captivated my son's attention!
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
By Austin Kleon
2012, Workman Publishing Company

Steal Like an Artist is a manifesto for overcoming "writer's block" than can be associated with any creative endeavor. Austin Kleon urges the reader to get over the idea that there are any original ideas in the world and use what is already out there as inspiration for creating a unique collaboration of what's already been done. While many of us may look at the idea of everything having already been done as a depressing and limiting view of reality, Kleon explains how this bit of knowledge provides us with ultimate freedom.

While this is a quick read, Steal Like an Artist isn't premised entirely on the "everything's already been done" idea. Kleon also provides pages of real tips and inspiration for getting out of a rut and reaching our full potential. From "fake it til you make it" to "don't throw any of yourself away", the reader skims through a number of common sense mantras that help bridge the gap between thought and action.

The book is filled with the author's own ideas, as well as quotes from artists of notoriety (Mark Twain, Jay-Z and some other lesser names among them). My absolute favorite quote, however, comes from the author himself. "Nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities." This sums up one of my own greatest roadblocks in most projects.

The chapters are spotted with Kleon's own artwork, serving as gentle reminders of the theme at hand. The art is made up of newspaper clippings with sections marked out to create selective messages (think serial killer artwork, if serial killers can be gentle).

Steal Like an Artist is an enjoyable, no-nonsense read that grounds the reader just enough to spark any dormant creativity. If you're a writer, musician, painter, business owner, or really anyone who finds themselves in a rut and looking for inspiration, this book is an excellent place to start. It can also be a quick, refreshing distraction from heavier tasks at hand until you find the inspiration you need to get moving.

6 Ways to Lose Belly Fat Without Exercise! by JJ Smith
6 Ways to Lose Belly Fat Without Exercise!
By JJ Smith
2014, Adiva Publishing

After reading and living JJ Smith's 10 Day Green Smoothie Cleanse, the success I was experiencing made me want to glean any other bits of wisdom I could from this lady. The 10 Day Green Smoothie Cleanse introduced me to the damage toxins are performing on my body every day. It was all about getting healthy. I'll be honest. For me, 6 Ways to Lose Belly Fat Without Exercise! was about exactly that: losing belly fat. Before kids, I always struggled with my belly as a problem area. I guess you'd call me an "apple" body type. Three kids later, I call my belly a disaster area. I'm ready for a change.

Smith is a nutritionist, not a doctor. But with my experience with doctors, this gives her even more credibility to me. 6 Ways to Lose Belly Fat Without Exercise! opens with testimonials from others who have taken Smith's advice. Then Smith illustrates why she knows what she's talking about. The reader gets to see before and after pictures of the author's own belly issue, and read what prompted her to take action on her own. The premise of the book is not to say that exercise is bad or unnecessary, but that there are other ways to see real results without grind. I was already exercising, despite my abhorrence for it, so I just continued as planned.

Chapter 1 lists seven "Fat-Belly Foods" to begin eliminating from your diet. Don't worry, Smith provides recipes in the appendix of healthier alternatives. Most of the foods listed won't be a surprise. We've had this information drilled into us by the media for years now. However, what is helpful is the way Smith goes into detail about why each of these foods is so dangerous and what effects they have on the body. She counters with seven "Flat-Belly Foods". Again, no huge surprises here, but very informative. She then provides some basic principles to apply when choosing foods to achieve that flat belly.

Chapter 2 is all about fat-blasting supplements. I found this chapter particularly helpful in choosing supplements to add to my own diet. There are probably some you've heard of and some you haven't, but Smith's thorough examination of each makes it a valuable chapter.

Chapter 3 is about cleansing. Thanks to the 10 Day Green Smoothie Cleanse, I was already past this step, but Smith provides some other ideas for cleaning the toxins out of our bodies. She provides the same quiz that was in the smoothie cleanse book to determine if you are a prime candidate for detox, and most of us are.

Chapter 4 delves into detail about hormonal imbalances that cause belly fat. The main part is she explains how to go about correcting these imbalances. Thankfully, changing your eating habits as instructed in Chapter 1 takes care of a lot of the work for you.

Chapter 5 covers nasty habits that cause belly fat while chapter 6 covers allergens that could be causing it. As usual, not a lot of surprises here, but very helpful information to take away. You'll be an expert when you're finished reading.

She closes with a list of FAQs and a seven-day meal plan to send you on your way. Then she closes with 50 recipes. Admittedly, I'm a picky eater so I'm only able to use a limited number of these recipes. I don't eat seafood or fish, so that eliminated quite a few off the bat. For the average person, this should be a treasure trove of meal ideas.

6 Ways to Lose Belly Fat Without Exercise! was a quick read, but a very informative one. I can definitely tell a difference in my health and the way I feel since I've been implementing Smith's advice. It's really changed my way of life, and I'm an evangelist, spreading her word to everyone I know (okay, my mom). I like Smith's realism and the way she provides tools for taking charge of your own health and appearance. Smith is on my list of authors to keep an eye on now, as I'll be consistently looking for new work  from her.
10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse by JJ Smith
10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse
10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse 
By JJ Smith
2014, Adiva Publishing

I cannot remember what I was searching when I came across JJ Smith's 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse on Amazon. But when I saw it, something prompted me to check it out, almost like I was drawn to it. To provide some background on why I found this book so appealing, I've been suffering from some health issues for a while now, and doctor visits had only left me with more questions and no diagnosis. I've been slowly transitioning into all natural cleaning and hygiene products in an attempt to treat some of my symptoms. A smoothie cleanse to rid myself of toxins (with weight-loss as an added  bonus) seemed right up my alley.

Smith is a nutritionist, not a doctor. I figured since doctors had failed me thus far, it couldn't hurt to heed the words of a nutritionist! Smith begins by explaining what her green smoothies are and why the cleanse is worth trying. She details how environmental toxins in the food we eat and the products we use are basically causing our systems to shut down as we overload our bodies with destructive substances. Yes, we've heard it all before, but it needs to be hammered in to really take root. The part that hit closest to home was Smith's self-assessment quiz to determine if you're a prime candidate for detoxing. Of course, I ticked off a large majority of the symptoms, so I was one of the best candidates for the cleanse, according to the author.

Despite my lack of willpower, I had reached a level of desperation, so I decided to take the plunge. Smith carefully lays out the 10 day cleanse program and important steps to follow during the cleanse. She names foods that must be avoided to get our bodies back on track. She provides an extensive list of greens to be used in the smoothies and the benefits of each type. Smith explains everything so thoroughly, you really can't go wrong. She even provides a full shopping list for picking up groceries and detailed recipes, so she's already done the work for you. She offers tips for success and an FAQ detailing a number of questions that might come up. 


My Results

As of today, I'm on Day 5 and for the first time in my 36 years, I can honestly say I've stuck with a diet plan--if you consider it to be that. On Day 1, I was sleepy after a long night with an ornery toddler, so I was pretty grumpy and out of it already. This was also making me want to snack more so I was basically starving. But the smoothies were so tasty I was able to make it through. My only slip up was that I ate sweetened peanut butter for a snack where she suggested unsweetened peanut butter because I didn't have access to the latter. By Day 2, I received a full night's sleep so I was in better spirits, though still quite hungry. I got my hands on a jar of unsweetened peanut butter so I was able to stay on track. The smoothie recipe for Day 3 called for a banana, and I'm allergic to bananas. I decided since I was eating it over the course of the entire day instead of all at once, I'd see if it would be okay. It was for the most part, but it gave me a terrible stomach ache. When I saw Day 4 called for bananas, as well, I just added extra berries instead and all was well. I was still pretty hungry though and snacked all day. By today, my body seemed to have fully adjusted because I didn't feel like I was starving in between smoothies and made it through another successful day. 

It's half-way through the cleanse and I am feeling great. Other than desperately craving a cheeseburger like a crack-addict, I'm doing better than ever. I have lots of energy, my brain fog is gone, and I'm in positive spirits despite the fact I recently went off my antidepressant. I've been exercising, as well, so I feel stronger. Smith doesn't call specifically for exercise in the plan (though she definitely doesn't discount the value), but I was already working out so it was inevitable I would continue. I've noticed my muscle and joint pain subsiding, as well. Oh, and did I mention the best part? I've lost five pounds! The book doesn't lie!

The author's smoothie recipes are pretty simple to follow. There are a few ingredients that might be hard to find in some areas (ground flax seed, for example) but overall, they can all be found at your local grocery store. The only complaint I have about the ingredients is the cost. Smith encourages use of organic ingredients as much as possible. If they can even be found in organic versions, which in my case weren't always available, the cost might be prohibitive. I spent a lot more on groceries for the smoothie cleanse than I would on a normal grocery trip. Once you factor in all the healthy snacks you'll need for the first few days you feel like you're starving, you come up with a pretty hefty budget. Just keep in mind it's only for ten days.

I see no problem with being able to complete the entire cleanse, so I will trudge on. The author provides a plan for transitioning back to "real" food after the smoothie cleanse, complete with recipes for healthy meals. I've found very few diet plans that were as simple for the reader to implement and guided the reader as well as Smith does. Since purchasing this book, I've also purchased her 6 Ways to Lose Belly Fat Without Exercise, so keep an eye out for that upcoming review. I have a lot of confidence in this author and am taking her words to heart.